Super Sports Agent Leigh Steinberg to Deliver Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School Commencement Address

Learn About Hazelden Betty Ford

St. Paul, Minn. (February 16, 2023) – Sports agent Leigh Steinberg, who inspired the classic movie Jerry Maguire and whose famous clients include two-time MVP and NFL champion quarterback Patrick Mahomes, will deliver the 24th Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School of Addiction Studies commencement address on April 22.

Steinberg will share his inspiring comeback story—from losing everything amid struggles with alcohol use disorder to recovering his health in 2010 and rising to the top of his profession again—and thank the counseling graduates for choosing a high-demand profession that will enable them to help others overcome substance use and mental health conditions. 

"Leigh Steinberg's story demonstrates what is possible in recovery and epitomizes the reason our scholars have chosen and worked so hard to enter the challenging and rewarding field of health care," said Kevin Doyle, EdD, president and CEO of the Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School, which is part of the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, the nation's leading nonprofit system of addiction and mental health care, recovery resources, and related education, prevention, research and advocacy.

"We are honored that Leigh will join us to celebrate our graduates' accomplishments and share his encouragement for the important and meaningful work ahead of them," Dr. Doyle added. "We have all been inspired by Leigh's willingness to carry the hopeful message of recovery to people everywhere. In the tradition of our namesake—former U.S. First Lady Betty Ford—Leigh is helping dismantle public stigmas and make it easier for people to seek the lifesaving help our graduates provide. We couldn't be more grateful for his advocacy and support of our students."

The invitation-only commencement will be held at Hamline University's Sundin Music Hall in St. Paul due to patient-safety protocols limiting visitation to the campus that the Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School shares with Hazelden Betty Ford's health care facility in Center City, Minn. 

Fifty-four new graduates will be recognized for earning master's degrees in "Addiction Counseling: Integrated Recovery for Co-occurring Disorders" and "Addiction Counseling: Advanced Practice"—enabling them to provide integrated, comprehensive addiction and mental health care consistent with best practices. Nearly all will establish careers in counseling or a related area of the addiction treatment and recovery field, and some will go on to pursue doctorates. Due in part to the overdose epidemic and broader addiction crisis—along with rising mental health and suicide concerns exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic—demand for counselors in the behavioral health industry is projected to grow 22% from 2021 to 2031, much faster than the average for all occupations.1

"We are excited to honor our graduates as they become forces of healing and hope during this time of urgent, escalating needs and widespread counselor shortages," Dr. Doyle said. "Big thanks for the second consecutive year to our gracious and hospitable friends at Hamline for providing a beautiful space for our commencement."

Steinberg, who lives in Newport Beach, CA, has represented many of the most successful athletes and coaches in sports, including 12 Pro Football Hall of Famers and eight No. 1 picks in the NFL draft. With an unrivaled history of record-setting contracts, he has secured over $4 billion for his 300+ pro athlete clients and directed more than $1 billion to various charities around the world. 

In 2017, Steinberg was inducted into the California Sports Hall of Fame. He has been named one of the most influential people in the NFL and sports by Football Digest and Sporting News. He also has received commendations from Congress and Presidents Reagan, Bush and Clinton, among others. Steinberg has served as a consultant on several feature films and TV series, including Jerry Maguire, Any Given Sunday, For Love of the Game, and Arli$$. He also is a best-selling author, and his most recent book, The Agent: My 40-Year Career of Making Deals and Changing the Game, sheds light on his recovery and comeback story. 

In 2018, Steinberg spoke at an event Hazelden Betty Ford sponsored in Minneapolis called SoberBowl—an alcohol-free party held during, and down the street from, the Big Game at U.S. Bank Stadium, where the Philadelphia Eagles defeated the New England Patriots for the NFL title. 

Steinberg joins other notable Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School commencement speakers, including the late New York Times columnist David Carr; North Dakota First Lady Kathryn Burgum, news anchor Laurie Dhue; Recovery Research Institute founder Dr. John Kelly; Robert DuPont, MD, the first director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse; and Michael Botticelli, the first person in recovery to lead the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

"Hazelden Betty Ford is highly regarded around the world, and its distinguished graduates are a force of healing and hope everywhere they go. It will be a privilege to speak to them and to help celebrate their hard work, sacrifice and love for the people and families they will serve for years to come," Steinberg said. "I know personally how important, transformative and needed their work is, and am encouraged knowing that another group of Hazelden Betty Ford graduates is entering the workforce, taking with them knowledge, expertise and a recovery-oriented spirit that our communities need now more than ever."

Launched in 1963 to develop a new generation of addiction treatment professionals, the Hazelden Chemical Dependency Counselor Training Program—as it was originally known—evolved into the Graduate School of Addiction Studies in 1999 when it admitted its first master's students. As the longest continuous, accredited provider of substance use counselor training in the United States, the school has educated students from 47 states, two U.S. territories, the District of Columbia and 44 countries, including Japan, Iceland, Norway, Canada, Great Britain and Bermuda; and continues to propel standards for the field.

With both onsite and distance-learning options, the Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School typically enrolls well over 200 students each year in its two addiction counseling programs. Graduates taking licensing and certification examinations have a 99.5% exam pass rate, and 92% of graduates are successfully employed within six months of graduation.2

For those interested in learning more about the Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School of Addiction Studies, the school offers regular open houses and events.

  1. "Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, last updated October 24, 2022. (visited January 18, 2023)
  2. 99.5% exam pass rate is based on 433/435 survey responses between 2004-2021. 92% of graduates successfully employed within six months based on 493/534 survey responses between 2002-2021.

About the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation

The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation is a force of healing and hope for individuals, families and communities affected by addiction to alcohol and other drugs. As the nation's leading nonprofit provider of comprehensive inpatient and outpatient addiction and mental health care for adults and youth, the Foundation has treatment centers and telehealth services nationwide as well as a network of collaborators throughout health care. Through charitable support and a commitment to innovation, the Foundation is able to continually enhance care, research, programs and services, and help more people. With a legacy that began in 1949 and includes the 1982 founding of the Betty Ford Center, the Foundation today is committed to diversity, equity and inclusion in its services and throughout the organization, which also encompasses a graduate school of addiction studies, a publishing division, an addiction research center, recovery advocacy and thought leadership, professional and medical education programs, school-based prevention resources and a specialized program for children who grow up in families with addiction.